Pape Matar Sarr – A Key Piece to the Spurs Puzzle

You wouldn’t think when the young midfielder sat on the bench for the majority of last season, that he would start every game he was available in this season. The young Senegalese midfielder signed from first-division French side Metz in the 21/22 season and struggled to make impressions on either Antonio Conte or Christian Stellini in his first year at the club. Only played considerable game time in Spurs’ injury crisis last season notably impressing Spurs fans at the San Siro in a 0-0 draw. However, this was not enough to win over Antonio Conte.

Sarr started just 2 games in the Premier League last season and only featured for 201 minutes all season. He also featured in Senegal’s World Cup run last December, registering 13 minutes in England’s comfortable 3-0 victory over the side in the round of 16. So how is he so key this season?

Sarr has a 73% win rate at Spurs this season when he has played 60+ minutes (W11, D1, L3) and you could put that down to Spurs having a fully fit 11, having James Maddison and Micky Van de Ven available for them game weeks would almost definitely affect Tottenhams poor form. The midfielder was out of action between November 11th (vs Wolves) and December 7th (vs West Ham) where he featured for just 6 minutes. It’s normal for football fans to mention Madderson’s and Van de Ven’s absences, however not many look at Sarr. 

In the short period without Sarr starting spurs failed to win, losing to both Aston Villa and West Ham 2-1 and drawing 3-3 to Manchester City at the Etihad. The midfield looked pretty loose in all 3 games as it was extremely makeshift, with no Bissouma or defensive outlet against City or Villa, and Bentancur making his return for just 37 minutes against Aston Villa a few weeks back.

The midfielder is tireless and works hard to support the defensive unit, however, he has chipped in this season with a goal in front of the south stand against Manchester United on Matchday 2 and more recently a goal against Bournemouth in the 3-1 win on New Year’s Eve, as well as 2 assists coming against Bournemouth in the away fixture and the capitulation at home against Chelsea. He plays the important role of playing in the half spaces looking for openings like he did against Bournemouth and crashing into the box to get to the end of cutbacks like he did against United.

Artwork by Charbak Dipta

Tottenham were rather poor against Nottingham Forest, giving away chances easily and Guglielmo Vicario bailing the side out a few times, alongside Forest’s poor finishing. However, Sarr worked tirelessly to get a result for the away side. His performance has gone under the radar due to the Attacking Brilliance of Heung Min Son and Dejan Kulusevski, and the return to form of Richarlison. 

Sarr has won more Ariel duels than any other midfielders at Tottenham this season, completing 3 against Nottingham Forest, where Spurs struggled aerially against players like Willy Boly and Chris Wood. He is also one of just 8 Spurs players to register a Player of the Match award this season for his performance against Manchester United in August.

Compared to midfielders in his role, Pape Sarr 88.2% pass completion rate, higher than 87% of other midfielders and completes 6.75 progressive passes per 90. The youngster is an all-around solid midfielder with a lot of space to grow. Defensively he helps the team out winning 1.31 aerial duels and 2.27 tackles per 90. Sarr was Tottenham’s best player on New Year’s Eve before being subbed off after 30 minutes with injury, running the midfield with ⅔ ground duels won, a successful dribble and ultimately the goal that put Spurs ahead.

Tottenham’s midfield has developed and changed a lot this season with the massive blow that was James Maddison’s injury and Bissouma’s lengthy suspensions. We have seen winger Dejan Kulusevski impressively drop into the 10 in James Maddison’s absence, Rodrigo Bentancur featured shortly until a high challenge against Aston Villa saw him out for a further 3 months on his returning start. Giovani Lo Celso found his way back in form with goals against Aston Villa and Manchester City and Oliver Skipp and Piere Emile Hojberg look to have completely fallen out of favor at Tottenham this year under attacking manager Ange Postecoglu, as they are not progressive enough. 

Even with all those names the starlet is seen as the best option in that left-centre-midfield role alongside Rodrigo Bentancur, although recently fans have been calling for Bentancur to play alongside Sarr, with either Kulusevski or Maddison sat in front of the pair.

The player was tipped to reach extreme heights from a young age, starting in Ligue 1 at just 18 and picking up almost 2,000 minutes in his first season in the league. This caused Tottenham to react by spending £14.6 million (Sky Sports) to pick up the at the time 19-year-old, two years later he has made his name in the Premier League and looks as if he will be a mainstay in the Tottenham midfield for years to come. Sarr will miss Crucial games like Manchester United on Sunday as well as Manchester City in a must-win FA Cup tie at home to Manchester City on the 26th, and with only a few midfielders available Spurs might suffer.

Elliott Stasin

20 year old student in the media, Huge Spurs fan